For J&J/McNeil, no exec blame for recalls, panel says

Showing solidarity "across the board," a panel convened by Johnson & Johnson's board of directors finds top executives at both J&J and its McNeil unit blameless in an embarrassing two-year stretch of product recalls. Translation: the panel threw McNeil middle management under the bus. It issued the findings in a 122-page court report filed last week in response to an investor lawsuit.

McNeil suffered from "an adversarial relationship" between some quality-control and production staff as well as "an emphasis on production volume" over compliance, according to Bloomberg. The adversity may have developed during a rapid succession of McNeil leadership changes; those leaders "may not have had sufficient understanding of what was taking place at the plant level," the committee said. In addition, some equipment was outdated and insufficient.

The 2006 acquisition of a Pfizer healthcare unit and a 2007 restructuring may have hurt, too. The Pfizer buy added 3,000 product categories to the McNeil load, straining the now infamous Fort Washington, PA, and Las Piedras, Puerto Rico, plants, reports Ed Silverman in Pharmalot.

The restructuring involved a worldwide healthcare compliance staffing reduction of 25%, from 16 to 12 people, "And the worldwide staffing for quality and control was slashed by 35%, from 43 to 28 people," according to Silverman.

In the report, the panel urges J&J's board to create a regulatory and compliance panel.

- see the Bloomberg article
- here's the Pharmalot analysis
- here's the report